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Truth in Labeling

A reader writes:

I am not sure if this is the right place to send a question, but it is the only reference to questions I found on the website.

I am reading about Buddhism because I started to meditate after exercising in the morning and found that it brought the most amazing sense of peace to me throughout the day. I would like to maintain that peace and mindfulness throughout the day. I hesitate to call myself a Buddhist because I feel that I have a lot more self-reflection, studying, and meditating to do before I have the right to take on such an honorable label.

 My Response:

You chose your words well. Buddhism, as I mentioned Tuesday, is not some lofty goal to be aspired to. It’s just a label that we put on ourselves. There are millions of “Buddhists” out there that give Buddhism nearly no thought in their daily lives. Others take it all very seriously. Either path is fine, but they are all considered Buddhists… It’s just a label.

Don’t get hung up on labels, especially not if it’s going to hold you back from something. I told a story way, way back on the site about my time in Japan, and how most of the people I spoke to, when Buddhism came up, asked “What’s that?” When I explained the ideas, they invariably replied, “Oh that. I think that too.” There are many labels out there to classify, organize, and coordinate things, places, and people.

Labels are restricting. Labels are limiting. Labels are confining.

Labels are one of the main contributors to discrimination, prejudice, bullying, and intolerance in the world. Labels have their reasons, but don’t EVER tie yourself down to a label.

From your email, you sound like a Buddhist. Whether you are or are not, the only difference is in your mind.

Does it matter?


1 comment to Truth in Labeling

  • Oscar

    Don’t get hung up on titles, labels and identification. If you want to call yourself a Bhuddist, you can do so. If you want to call yourself a Wigwam, which doesn’t mean anything, you can do so. There’s no formal ceremony to becoming a “homeless” person. A homeless person is just another label (word) which means you’ve decided to undertake the path of the Bhudda. As far as getting high on meditation, that’s great, but don’t look for it every time you meditate, or don’t try to hold on to the good feeling. Just let the good feeling reside on its own, and when it’s time for it to leave, it will leave on its own. Don’t hold on to anything. Keep your “self” out of it.